1 Pilot, 3 Ways – Babylon 5

February 19, 2019

M’kal On’id- Level 6 Officer(Pilot)
Babylon 5 – 2d Edition Faith Manages

One of the reasons I choose Babylon 5 to revisit for a Pilot purpose is that it is one of the few class and level games I had readily available that specifically put Pilots into a class.  It is one of the subclasses of The Officer, but by providing a clear path for a Pilot, it made it a distinctly attractive game to include in this series. The other interesting reason is that in Season 2 of Babylon 5, they added a Fighter Pilot character – Warren Keffer.  As the story goes, the network executives required the addition of a hot shot pilot … and as soon as they were no longer watching every move made by JMS, Zeta Leader Warren Keffer met his end at the hands of a Shadow Vessel.

System Notes

I’ll start by going over the basics of the system, but if you have read the posts from Nakir’s Zocalo Bar Happy Hour Drinking Society, you will already be familiar with the next few paragraphs. The Babylon 5 RPG was part of the Open Game License explosion in the 2000s.  When Dungeons & Dragons 3e came out, Wizards of the Coast made a decision to release the underlying mechanics and game concepts in an open license for third party and fan development. This is still known as the Open Game License and formed the basis for the later d20 expansions and compatibility. The underlying mechanics are therefore something familiar to many role players today – the main mechanic is to roll a d20, add appropriate modifiers, and compare the result to a difficulty or opposed roll for the result.  The attributes are ones you have seen before – Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma; Characters have levels and hit points; and the Character classes are mostly familiar.

Each class provides an array of statistics, including the Base Attack Bonus to determine whether you hit in combat, a Defence bonus since armor is pretty rare in the setting, as well as an array of saving throw bonuses between the three savings throws – Fortitude, Reflex, and Will.  As you level up, you increase the somewhat paltry Hit Points, a decidedly deadly game this one, and gain specific abilities based on your class. Additionally, the Babylon 5 Game put a premium on social skills and investigative abilities so the Influence Statistic became important which measured how much pull or influence your character has with different factions.  Feats are the special abilities that separate your character from another and include a host of options.

Check out the previous posts from Nakir’s Zocalo Bar for a walk through of five different character builds, the setting, and the system.

When working in to spaceship combat, being a trained pilot with the appropriate Feats provides additional ability to actually use the ships to their full potential.  The system is set up to allow different “Orders” or vehicle actions to be taken in chase or ship combat, and the Feats provide additional Orders and ability. No matter how good your Pilot Roll may be without the ability to engage in multiple order per combat round, a pilot will never be the equal of a Pilot.

Design Notes

For this 3 Ways build, I decided to eschew “standard” humans, and in the Babylon 5 setting, it was easy to identify a Narn pilot as one that makes sense because of the larger setting metaplot.  This may showcase some diversity in the systems, but it also can showcase how a single concept plays across these different games. Babylon 5 was one RPG chosen because the Officer Class specifically contemplated Pilots as an option to make the starfighter ace, like poor Warren Keffer mentioned above. Dexterity and Intelligence are going to be our favored stats here.

For the Ability Score Rolls, I will use the same set of results from the Nakir’s Zocalo Bar Happy Hour Drinking Society results: With a 4D6 roll, dropping the lowest, the resulting attributes to assign will be: 12; 16; 15; 10; 12; 15.

The resulting Ability Scores after the Narn bonus to CON and hit to CHA are: Strength – 12, Dexterity – 16, Constitution – 17, Intelligence – 15, Wisdom – 10, Charisma – 10. Not quite perfect, but fitting for a no-nonsense and by-the-numbers starfighter ace.  As an Officer, M’kal chooses the Pilot “subclass” to get access to all of the Pilot features such as the Spaceship Proficiency Feat and Pilot as a Class skill. I start by beginning with the Maximum rating in Piloting, Knowledge(Tactics), and Operations (Piloting) and then spread the rest of the skill points out to reflect the background including adding ranks to the Knowledge (Narn Culture) to reflect the devotion to the Narn cultural identity that many share at this time in history. I make sure to include Operations as needed to ensure that I eventually pick up the Fire Control Feats for his Dogfighting.

As far as Feats go, Skill Focus: Pilot is an obvious option since Spaceship Proficiency came for free as an Officer and all Narn have Toughness.  This is then balanced out with a good bit of equipment though as an Officer, the addition of a few particular weapons makes M’kal pretty dangerous even outside of a Fighter.  

Advancement Notes

As a d20 derivative game, the class and level advancement is a straightforward advancement system.  The Officer Class provides increases to the “Base Attack Bonus” to hit as well as Hit Points, and Saving throw Benefits.  Additionally, skill ranks are increased each level and then the additional Feats and Class Features show up. As you gain experience, you gain the abilities at each level of your class, including increases to your Proficiency Bonus.  By 6th Level, most importantly for M’kal, is additional Feats from a Pilot list of feats including Starfighter Dodge and Dogfighting.

For the general Feats available, there are 2 to choose after the two above may be better suited to ensuring that the Soldier aspect of the character concept is met. I have made sure that Armor Proficiency reduces his penalties in his armor and added Improved Initiative to start him down that particular path of Feats.

Check the Character Sheet linked below for all the advancement!

This character creation and advancement was relatively simple, as this is the style that most gamers have at least passing familiarity with.  There is some amount of flexibility and options in this, but the least number of options of the three different systems used. I think it is also a good example of how the d20 system could provide a great deal of accessibility and use.  Babylon 5 keeps Hit POints quite low and forces a focus on social and diplomatic aspects of the world as befits the setting, so the use of Influence and limits on armor availability really go push the game in that direction.

Character Notes

M’kal NDid is a Narn Fighter Pilot.  This is something for which he thanks G’Quan and shows his pride.  For a long time, the Narns could provide a great deal of Soldiers and Warships, but the fighters were left lacking. M’kal persevered and is an acknowledged ace, a veteran of the Centauri’s renewed aggression. Sadly, his skills alone couldn’t balance the onslaught the Centauri unleashed with the Shadows at their back.  It was the promise of Babylon 5 and defeating the Shadows which should then push back against the Centauri as well. It is on the Station that M’kal thought back on his youth.

Babylon 5 brought back memories.  Ambassador G’kar had a similar history – a soldier in the Narn War of Independence, G’Kar embodied the Narn Regime’s hot blooded and dynamic nature.  He was outspoken and inspiring – M’kal was one such youngling inspired. His parents were lost to the accursed Centauri and he needed a direction, something to hold on to and believe in.  The Narn Regime needed soldiers, and it turns out they needed pilots as well.

M’kal is one of the few pilots to make it this far.  The Narn Regime, it seems, had an near unlimited supply of GROPOS, Ground Pounders, who could hold nearly any planet and a fleet that was powerful and feared … but lacked the true naval dominance that advanced starfighters provide.  M’kal’s skill and his ability to exceed even Minbarai Pilots made up for the technological deficit the Narn Regime was in.

Success begat focus and pride.  M’kal became known for his skills and for executing the orders of the Regime quite well.  He continued to watch G’kar, now an Ambassador to babylon 5 advance the Narn cause, and he saw a glorious future.  An amazing way for the Narn to reclaim what should have been theirs from the Centauri. That was, until the Centauri and their mass drivers threw decimation back onto Narn.   

While he fought well, the sudden power and fortune of the Centauri overcame everything Narn had to offer.  He was left adrift, figuratively and literally, until he found a way to Babylon 5. He has been welcomed as a warrior, a Starfighter Pilot, in defense of the now independent Babylon station.  He never expected that he would be on the deployment as G’kar, nor did he expect G’kar to be stripped of his place in the Kah’ri but now he listens to a human and flies in defense of a space station with Minbari battle cruisers protecting it.  His quiet barely contains his fury, but he suffers the ignomy with the grace of a Narn. His pride allows nothing less.

M’kal Babylon 5 Sheet

1 Pilot, 3 Ways Overview

BABYLON 5 and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Copyright © 2006 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.  The Babylon 5 2d Edition game is subject to the OGL and was published by Mongoose Publishing.

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